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Honoring everyday heroes

By Staff | Sep 7, 2011

Carla McBee

A day in the life of a U.S. Soldier.

“Knowing that people care back home and are grateful for our sacrifices makes every footstep through the dust and hot sun worth it.” – Spc. Steven Chaplin, Jr.

The terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001 awakened the country from its habitual peacetime slumber. Slow to anger, Americans traditionally spend most of their time pursuing personal goals, each with his or her own version of the American dream. But for many, the events of 11 September quickly burned into their consciousness, changing their lives in ways that only slowly began to register. As the nation mourned, it did so with the realization that sadness would give way to anger, and anger to justice. Almost immediately, in fact, the U.S. armed forces led the way in beginning a new type of war: a war on terrorism.

The 101st Airborne Division-the “Screaming Eagles”-is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. Many modern members of the 101st are graduates of the U.S. Army Air Assault School and wear the Air Assault Badge.

Although not a prerequisite for assignment to the division, the badge is a requirement for holding a leadership position. Division headquarters is at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Sheriff Earl P. "Bob" Kendle, Jr.

In recent years, the division has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The division is one of the most highly decorated units in the U.S. Army and has been featured prominently in military fiction since its first deployment.

Spc. Steven Chaplin, a Tyler County native and Intelligence Analyst with the 101st Airborne Division, Air Assault, is currently stationed in Afghanistan. He shared his story with the Tyler Star News recently:

“I was picked up early for the second time this week. I could already read my counterparts facial expression as he hurried me along. ‘So whats up?’ I asked begging for an answer I knew I didn’t want to know. “We lost another” he granted me a short three word reply. My stomach sank in that sick feeling, I stared at the ground for a moment, and I rushed to get dressed. No time for any sort of emotion, I had a job to do. The short mile ride there was filled with details of what we had so far of what happened. We pulled up to my place of duty and parked. “Just another day” I said as I hopped out of the vehicle grabbing my weapon and laptop for the long night ahead of me. I tried to pep myself up more than anything and repeated what I said “It really is just another day”.

Chaplin continues, “Today we lost our third soldier in a time span of only four days. Three lives gone in 96 hours. That’s a heavy hit, but as I look around no one really hangs their head. It probably just hasn’t sank in yet and it probably wont until you hear the 21 gun salute that will memorialize the comrades we lost. I dread every one of these memorials. I dread seeing my fellow soldiers broken to tears as they tell stories at a podium of the ones we lost. Staring at a picture of your fallen comrade while a firing squad squeezes off 21 rounds is the hardest thing as a soldier that I have had to experience and every time I have to fight tears. I spend my days reviewing information of enemy attacks, and daily read over the numbers of wounded or killed, never pausing to really let it hit me what I’m in the middle of. Thousands of soldiers just like me live daily the horrors of what they have to face. But when its your own, its like you lose a family member. We all have a job to do, so its drive on for the day.”

Reflecting on the events of the day, Chaplin writes, “After the day today, as I lay in my own bed wishing and pleading for sleep to come ” start thinking of family and how I can’t wait to embrace everyone. Less than 50 days, and it’s not getting easier. Then I’m faced with the reality that for my three brothers, its more than 50 days it’s an eternity. I can’t imagine how hard it is to tell a family that their loved one is not going to come home, that they will never see them again. I think of my family at home missing me, and then I think of theirs probably lost in tears somewhere and crushed. It’s the realities we all try to push aside but they are realities.”

Spc. Steven Chaplin

He continues, “I look at myself sometimes in the mirror, as I’m brushing my teeth, and know that the face staring back at me is lucky to be there at all. Knowing that if a rocket would fully detonated or I wouldn’t have been behind a sheet of armor as the rounds bounced of my vehicle Icould have easily been on that memorial poster instead. I pray nightly, and analyze my movements daily, knowing a few seconds can define life or death for a soldier. Ninety nine percent of Americans will never have to face something like that. I watch as all my friends say goodbye knowing its see you later, and know that my goodbyes could be goodbye forever. But it’s something that I’m willing to face, you know, I’ve picked myself up before after near sure death and just drove on. “It’s just another day.” and I’m not complaining.”

In conclusion, Chaplin writes, “Everybody has a different story. We are shipped to a foreign country. Some of us are not even old enough to legally consume alcohol. Myself, I was 19 when I left for Afghanistan. I’ll admit openly I’ve changed, and many that don’t know me will probably think of me as arrogant or mean. But like I said, they don’t know me. I do this for my family, for the small town I love, and for my country. I know the majority of people reading this know me in some way whether by name or personally, and know that saying that I am proud of my lifestyle is an understatement. But as you read this know you can make it worth it for a soldier. Knowing that people care back home and are grateful for our sacrifices makes every footstep through the dust and hot sun worth it. So, as I write this with the freshness of pain hanging in the air, I ask you to do one thing. Just say “thanks.” Stop a soldier and shake their hand, because if he or she has a patch on his right shoulder he or she has experienced all that I’ve discussed without ever asking for anything from you. Believe me, you can make it all worth it.”

“Rest in peace, men, this world can be cruel. We will take it from here.”

* * * *

A day in the life of a Police Officer.

Tom Cooper, OEM Director

“I’m no hero. I just do my job.” – Sheriff Earl. P. “Bob” Kendle, Jr.

A police officer’s primary duty is to uphold the law. They help the community fight criminals by making arrests, assisting people with emergency situations, and investigating crimes. They help prosecute criminals by collecting and securing evidence, testifying in court, and writing detailed reports. They are called upon to defuse domestic altercations, provide comfort to victims of violent crimes, and remove children from abusive homes.

Police Officers are called to “protect” and “serve” – for most, it’s more than a job, it’s way of life. For Tyler County Sheriff Earl P. “Bob” Kendle, Jr., and others who belong to the brotherhood of the badge, no day on the job is typical. There is no routine. “One minute you could be in court and the next you’re out investigating a crime. That’s just the way it is,” he explained.

Kendle’s sworn duty to protect and serve the residents of Tyler County is all he’s ever known. Since the age of 18, he’s been involved with law enforcement. “I started out as a radio operator for the State Police at the Paden City Detachment,” he remarked. “Then in 1978, I came to Tyler County as a dispatcher.”

Later that year, Kendle was hired by the Middlebourne Police Department where he worked until a position became available at the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office. At one time, he was recognized as the longest continually serving law enforcement officer in the area.

Sistersville Fire Chief Steve Leasure

On Sept. 11, 2001, a heinous act of terrorism forever changed the way police officers in the United States do their jobs. On that date, 72 of New York’s finest willingly gave their lives in the line of duty.

“It changed the way I looked at my job. As I watched the towers fall on television that day, I was sick to my stomach and angry about what had transpired,” he said.

Kendle says one of his most favorite quotes comes from George Orwell: People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

“That’s what we do,” he said. “We stand ready to defend our neighbors.”

Throughout his career, Kendle has investigated many crimes, testified in several court cases and served as the school resource officer at Tyler Consolidated. For as many people he has put behind bars, there are many more who see him as someone they can look up to – a hero.

Kendle, however, does not see himself that way. “I’m no hero. I just do my job,” he said, humbly. “Seventy-two brave police officers ran into the wreckage of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 when everyone else was running out. They were not seeking fame, fortune or notoriety. They knew the risk involved and understood the danger of their profession, yet they chose to enter the burning buildings to secure the scene, help the wounded, and search for survivors. Those men and women are true heroes in my book.”

A day in the life of a Paramedic.

“I work for God, I am not God.” – Carla McBee EMT-P/WCEAA Director

The precise meaning of the term varies by jurisdiction, but in many countries EMTs respond to emergency calls, perform certain medical procedures and transport patients to hospital in accordance with protocols and guidelines established by physician medical directors.

“I face what you fear. It doesn’t mean I don’t fear it, too, at times. I ease your pain, deliver your baby, wipe your tears and earn your trust. I don’t know you and you don’t know me but I work furiously to save your life. If you need me, I work in the cold, lift too much, put myself in danger and get up when I’m sleeping to answer your call. I leave the comfort of my house, the love of my family and miss holidays and birthdays so that I can take care of you.”

EMT-Paramedics, who are commonly referred to as simply “paramedics”, represents the highest level of EMT, and in general, the highest level of prehospital medical provider.

Paramedics perform a variety of medical procedures such as fluid resuscitation, pharmaceutical administration, obtaining IV access, cardiac monitoring), and other advanced procedures and assessments.

“I hold your elderly parent’s hand, I wipe their tears and I am their support while they face death. When death comes, I hold your hand and I am your support because of their death. When your spouse abuses you, I step in and try to make you safe. When your baby dies, I cry with you and wonder why I am doing this job. When you’re having a heart attack, I calm your fears and ease your pain, and then wonder if I did all that I could. “

In the United States, EMTs are certified according to their level of training. Individual states set their own standards of certification (or licensure, in some cases) and all EMT training must meet the minimum requirements as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standards for curriculum.

“I’m there when you have a car accident. I protect your spine and neck from further injury, take care of your wounds and convince you that vehicles can be replaced. I have seen enough of these to know that you are lucky to be alive, even though you can’t understand. When your house is burning, I wrap you in blankets to keep you warm and comfort you while you watch your belongings go up in smoke. I mourn with you and help you sort through the confusion and find a place to sleep for the night,” she said.

Treatments and procedures administered by paramedics fall under one of two categories, off-line medical orders (standing orders) or on-line medical orders. On-line medical orders refers to procedures that must be explicitly approved by a base hospital physician or registered nurse through voice communication (generally by phone or radio) and are generally rare or high risk.

McBee continued, “When your teenager overdoses, my heart cries silently while I work to save their young, confused life. I see your pain and feel your fear and try to help you while I am helping them. If your child dies, my heart is broken and I choke back the tears. I don’t want to feel your pain, it’s too much to bare, but I do and then I fear for my children. My heart pounds in my throat and I hope that you have enough support to make it through the days ahead. I cry….for days”

“When you try to take your life, I try to understand you and want you to let me help you. I try to support you and see through your pain and tears. When your family member commits suicide I hold you up until the shock of death eases. I listen to your cries of anger and despair until you collapse with exhaustion. I am exhausted emotionally, but I go on to the next call,” she said.

When the days are rough and the calls are especially traumatic, McBee says she has a silent conversation with God. “I tell him to help me make it through the next bad call. I tell him I know that he is in charge, but if he is going to send me into these houses and touch these lives, to please be there for me while I am taking care of others. When I am not happy with the outcome of a call, I have to stop and realize that he is God and I am NOT. I only work for him and he calls the shots.”

“I get tired, confused, hurt, lonely, sad and my head is full of what life has to offer. I’ve seen more ugliness than most do in a lifetime. I have carried more burdens and felt more pain than most think is humanly possible. I have seen more abuse and smelled the stench of hunger and neglect. I have cleaned vomit, wiped urine and soaked up blood. I have seen the sadness in the eyes of the elderly and the child when they are neglected. I feel pain, anger and sorrow for my patients,” she explained.

“I lay in bed at night and wonder how you were when I left. I wonder if you got the help you needed. I wonder who lived and who died and keep reminding myself that I work for God, I am not God. The fear of death in my patient’s eyes haunts me when I try to sleep. The smell of the blood fills my dreams and I wake up in a sweat. My heart aches for the children lost and the lonely hearts. I protect myself by hiding my emotions. I even start to resist having any emotions at all. I have to be brave. . .for everyone who needs me. No one really understands.”

Why does she do this? “I don’t know,” she answered. “I do know that it gets easier when I hear a ‘thank you.’ There are more complaints than thanks. When I hear that newborn cry and I know that I helped bring a life into this world, it doesn’t seem quite so ugly. When I see my children proud of something that I have done or when they realize I saved a life and that the work I do is good, I feel better. I think back to when my father was an EMT and I was so proud. He was my HERO.”

“When I am elderly, I will have my own secret, silent hell as I lay waiting for death. I hope God blesses me and takes away all the bad memories. Maybe the memories will comfort me instead of haunting me. Maybe I will have plenty of life to run through my head and it will be better than wishing I had lived while I could. Maybe I won’t make it to be elderly. I run into dangers everyday on this job. God is in charge so I will trust him to make that decision,” she said.

Why is McBee a paramedic? Because she likes helping others. “I guess it’s just that simple. It all comes down to helping others. When you see a paramedic, an EMT, a police officer or a fireman, thank them!”

A day in the life of the Emergency Management Director.

“It has been said that the events on Sept. 11,2001 changed the entire world. It has changed nations, governments and relationships between the superpowers of the world.” – OEM Director Tom Cooper

The mission of the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management is to develop and maintain emergency plans and coordinate the use of County, State and Federal resources to prepare, respond, recover and mitigate the effects of natural and man-made disasters on the citizens of Tyler County.

The goals and objectives of Tyler County Emergency Management is to provide training for disaster staffing; update and maintain an effective Emergency Operations Plan; enhance mitigation activities in Tyler County

Provide easy access of preparedness, planning, and emergency information to the citizens of Tyler County; enhance communications with the citizens, local media, community associations and businesses; maintain an integrated countywide emergency communications system; maintain a fully equipped Emergency Operations Center and Mobile Command Center; train and coordinate the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Search and Rescue Team; and ensure compliance with NIMS (National Incident Management System) and other Federal and State mandates.

OEM Director Tom Cooper says, “It has been said that the events on Sept. 11,2001 changed the entire world. It has changed nations, governments and relationships between the superpowers of the world. Nearly every aspect of our government has changed the way it operates because of the events.”

“A good question may be “How has it changed our citizens?” We say that our lives have changed, but have we made any changes to our lives that would help our families and our nation? We all felt very patriotic directly after the disaster. Flags were displayed everywhere you looked, volunteerism flourished, churches grew and America was proud of its government.”

In Cooper’s opinion, the real goal of the enemy has become apparent. “The United States economy started suffering, just as the enemy had hoped for. Soon Americans started blaming our own government. Now we are very critical of our government and leaders. We find ourselves having very little faith in the greatest nation in the world. The sale of flags has dropped, the churches are no longer crowded and many of our volunteers have gone back to life as before.”

Cooper rhetorically asks, “How has it changed you? I know you still love your country. How can you make a change for the better? “

“Here are a few changes that can help you and your country. Vote! Our enemies wish they could pick our officials. They can’t, you can. Volunteer. Help someone and expect nothing in return. Join a volunteer team to help make your community better and safer. Join in and support your first responders.Build a family disaster kit. It’s easy and doesn’t cost much. You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Develop a family plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations,” he concluded.

For assistance with these changes, email tjcooper@frontier.com or call the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management at 304-758-5155. More information is available at www.tylerwv.com.

* * *?*

A day in the life of a Firefighter.

“My reward comes from knowing someone came through the trauma and is living a normal, productive life.” – Steve Leasure, Sistersville Fire Chief

Steve Leasure, Chief of Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department, began his 28 years of service as a firefighter in 1966. “I was still in high school. I was a junior. It was something interesting to do,” said Leasure. “I believe ours was the first group of Junior Firemen in Paden City.”

Following graduation, Leasure spent five years on the Paden City Volunteer Fire Department, then went into the army. After marrying wife Linda, they moved to Friendly, and he went to work for PPG, where he was on the fire brigade.

Leasure also took EMT classes and was on the Rescue Squad in Sistersville, eventually becoming assistant chief. He then joined the Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department and moved up through the ranks to his present position as Fire Chief.

“In those days, when I first began as a firefighter, all training expenses came out of our own pocket,” explained Leasure. “These days, all training is paid for through the department.”

Leasure is President of the Tyler County Firefighters Association, which includes five area fire departments, including Middlebourne, Sistersville, Alma, Shirley and Paden City. The association is currently applying for grant funding to purchase equipment such as “jaws of life” and new radios for all five VFDs.

Leasure has also been an instructor for fire training. Through his work at PPG, he instructed classes at the Brayton Fire Training Field, a world-renowned facility in Texas. The program is through the Texas Engineering Extension Service and has been providing firefighter training since 1929. Firefighters from all over the world train at the site.

“I’ve seen some pretty bad things,” said Leasure, “but I’ve seen some pretty good things, too. My reward comes from knowing someone came through the trauma and is living a normal, productive life.”

“The most stressful thing, for me, is calls that involve children,” he added. “It’s tough sometimes.”

Leasure is thankful the department now has a chaplain, Rev. Bill Dawson. “It’s great to have a chaplain,” he said. “He’s a good guy.”

Leasure noted that there is now a First Responder program at SVFD, which makes the department able to respond when other rescue units may be available. “It’s been a big success, so far,” he added.

“We’re on call 24/7,” commented Leasure. “When we get called out, we don’t know what we’re dealing with until we get there. We’ve implemented more training, which has been required since 9/11.”

All volunteer fireman must respond to at least 25 percent of calls in order to remain in good standing with the department.

Sistersville VFDs Training Officer, Craig Pritchett, says he became a volunteer firefighter “out of a desire to help my friends and neighbors when they need it most.”

“Being a firefighter is a huge commitment, because you never know when you will be called upon to serve,” he remarked. “Countless hours must be spent attending training sessions and responding to emergencies.”

“Fire departments respond to a wide range of emergencies including car accidents, medical emergencies, river rescues, vehicle fires, house fires, search and rescues, storm damage, and more,” he explained. “Every different emergency situation requires specialized equipment and training.”

“Volunteer firefighters receive no monetary compensation for the lack of sleep, the physical and emotional stress, the missed birthday parties and family events caused by responding to an emergency, but we do find comfort in being able to help those in need,” added Pritchett.